Naked City

Forgione's Fashion Police

No more pj's, tank tops, or belly buttons. Those are among the newly declared contraband items for Austin public schools, as AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione on Monday announced a new school dress code and closed-campus policy to take effect this fall.

Forgione said the dress code revisions stipulate clothing appropriate to student age, the school setting, and weather conditions, and asked students and parents to share responsibility. "Students are required to use good judgment, to respect themselves and others, and to demonstrate modesty in selecting attire." It will now also be districtwide policy that only seniors are permitted to leave campus during lunch periods, a privilege revocable for "repeated misbehavior."

Although Forgione's press release said he was acting in part in response to the deliberations of the district's Community Safety Task Force, in fact the task force report indicates that Forgione declared dress codes, closed campuses, and "character education" to be among his own priorities. Following some input from student groups, campus advisory councils, and PTAs, the administration developed its new dress policy including a list of banned clothing items, with some distinctions between elementary and higher grades. All students will be forbidden to wear backless tops, "baggy" pants, bare midriffs, and "gang-associated" clothing or colors. Only elementary students will be forbidden to wear "fake nails and make-up," but apparently can get away with athletic shorts (banned in middle and high school "outside of PE"). Pajamas are explicitly forbidden in middle and high school. (Does that mean that Disney 'toon ensemble is welcome in third grade?) According to the written regulations, "The purpose of the dress code is to create the proper learning environment and model good citizenship [because] the selection of clothing often sets the pattern for behavior."

The policy also reiterates bans on clothing that depicts or promotes the use of "alcohol, tobacco or controlled substances," or displays "vulgar language" and forbids attire that might "disrupt, interfere with, disturb, or detract from school activities." Although specific aspects of the new policy – "no see-through clothing" – seem commonsensical, other details – like the ban on "thong-type flip-flops" – may appear to some students as arbitrary, or more simply as futile attempts to stem the tides of teenage fashion. The new rules also appear to emphasize controlling girls' clothing that might be considered "distracting" to boys – we can look forward to style busts and fashion hearings as the policy shakes out next year.

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